Riders – Europa Festival Film Review

The Europa Film Festival is in full swing in Melbourne and Sydney, offering me the perfect opportunity to review the Australian Premiere of Slovenia’s Riders.

Directed by Dominik Mencej, Riders was Slovenia’s submission for the Best International Feature Film Academy Award and this, its Australian premiere, forms part of the Europa Europa film festival running from Feb 15th to Mar 11th.

Set in the spring of 1999 in Slovenia, the film follows two friends from a small village. Inspired by their love of Easy Rider, they travel cross-country on their souped-up mopeds. Anton (Petja Labovic) is seemingly on a quest for his ex-girlfriend, and Tomaz (Timon Sturbej) is seeking truth and acceptance. They are joined along the way by the enigmatic Ana (Anja Novak), who is trying to travel cross-country for reasons of her own, and elder bikie Peter (Nikola Kojo), a father figure and older version of Anton.

Riders - Europa Festival Film Review

The performances are nuanced and authentic, with Tomaz and Anton sharing equal billing in their journey. Tomaz, with his gentle demeanour and unwavering loyalty, becomes the unsung hero of the journey, while Anton’s fiery spirit and impulsive actions add a layer of unpredictability. With her mysterious allure, Ana redirects their path towards the seaside, a twist that enriches their voyage. The initially tense relationship between Anton and Peter evolves into a believable mentor-protege bond, adding another layer of emotional depth to the story.

Mencej masterfully controls the film’s pacing, allowing audiences ample time to engage with each character’s development and the group’s interpersonal dynamics. This deliberate storytelling showcases the complexity of their personalities and mirrors their internal quests for identity and belonging.

At its heart, “Riders” is a meditation on the search for self, brilliantly symbolized by the protagonists’ journey across Slovenia. Is there any better way to do this than to jump on your motorbike and journey across the country?

We glimpse love, jealousy, anger, tragedy, a hint of romance, and redemption of a kind that culminates in a conclusion that satisfies but remains open-ended at the same time, inviting us to ponder the characters’ futures.

This is an excellent film with a simple premise about the ever-elusive quest for truth, portrayed with depth and authenticity.

This film gives us a small snapshot into another time and another country far removed from Australia but remains timeless in terms of the human experience. We’ve all had our seminal moments, and this film encourages us to reflect on our own journey, the personal truths we’ve uncovered along the way, and ponder those that still remain hidden from our view.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Riders” to anyone attending the Europa Film Festival.

For Sydneysiders, this film can be viewed at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick on the 18/2 and 3/3 at 5:15pm.

For Melbournites, this film can be viewed at Classic Cinemas, Elsternwick, on 18/2, 29/2 and 8/3 from 5:15pm.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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